The Importance of Training Young Scientists

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English physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton famously said: “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”. This meant that he was not starting his work from scratch, but was using the discoveries and knowledge accumulated by the scientists that preceded him.
Following the same logic, future fundamental and clinical research will rely on the education of the current students and young scientists. Accelerating the scientific progress in a field means to attract the best scientists and ensure that they are properly trained.

First, attract…
If you consider the biomedical or neuroscience research field, students have many, many subjects in which they could specialize. Among them are diseases like Alzheimer, Parkinson, Multiple Sclerosis, depression or traumatic brain injury. Jan Schwab from the Ohio State University in Columbus and Scientific Director of Wings for Life points out the talent of the students. „It´s amazing to see these young enthusiastic scientists. I think it´s our duty to encourage these young people and promote their potential“.

…then train them!
Wings for Life and Spinal Research decided in a joint initiative to co-organize a “training” - Spinal Cord Injury and Neurotrauma Summer School. Every second year, young clinicians and pre- and post-doctoral researchers have the opportunity to participate to a five-day event that gathers some of the most influential scientists in the field of spinal cord injury research.

This year 25 students participate lectures that cover all aspects of this field, from basic science to translational research. They also had a chance to visit the Queen Elisabeth National Spinal Cord Injuries Unit in Glasgow to learn more about the diagnosing, acute care and rehabilitation of patients. They got a strong impression on the dramatic and irreversible consequences of a spinal cord injury for individuals, encouraging them in the importance of their research.
During the school the students also got the opportunity to present their own scientific work in a poster session and great emphasis was put on the interaction and exchange with the faculty.

Ensuring research quality
This kind of training ensures that young scientists will be exposed early on to the best standards of research and learn a rigor that will positively influence their future discoveries. They will be able to achieve their goals more effectively when they diffuse these standards in the laboratories in which they are working. Exposed to leading experts, the “young generation” will take them as role models. They will learn to develop interdisciplinary scientific interests, tackle difficult problems and learn to take risks. They will understand the value of “solid”, high quality results and will learn the importance of communicating their results most effectively.

So far, more than 100 young scientists from all over the world participated to the Spinal Cord Injury and Neurotrauma Summer School. From 2012 – 2018 it took place in London (England), Toledo (ESP), Hattingen (GER) and Glasgow (SCO). With the support of the established scientists and clinicians, ISRT and Wings for Life want to ensure that with this targeted training and education the best seeds are planted for expediting the discovery of a cure for spinal cord injuries.